RED LODGE – Though Red Lodge city ordinances prohibit people from feeding wild animals, some residents continue to supply food for a flock of wild turkeys. The result is an unnatural, unhealthy concentration of turkeys in town.
City officials are asking all Red Lodge residents to help disperse the turkeys into a more natural setting by discontinuing feeding in town. Even people who are not putting food in their yards need to help their neighbors understand the consequences of illegally feeding wildlife.
Those consequences include a flock of turkeys that is dependent on unnatural food sources, possible avian diseases resulting from the unnatural concentration, bird droppings in places frequented by residents and pets, and possible attraction of bears, deer, lions and other unintended wildlife. Legal consequences may include written warnings from city police and fines of $100 to $300.
Without artificial food sources, wild turkeys normally would not stay in town. They would naturally disperse into more rural environs to find food and shelter.
In the past few years, Red Lodge homes and many businesses installed bear-proof garbage cans, which removed a significant food source for bears. As a result, bears no longer find food easily available in Red Lodge, so they forage in the forests. Conflicts between bears and people have declined noticeably. Red Lodge officials want to see the same results with turkeys.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists and game wardens, Red Lodge Mayor Ed Williams and Police Chief Steve Hibler have agreed to cooperate with Red Lodge residents in an effort to end feeding so the wild turkeys will disperse into their natural rural habitat.